Posted by Dr. Bon Blossman on Dec 21st 2020
The Comparison of Virtual and Traditional Murder Mysteries.
TRADITIONAL | MINGLING FORMAT
Preparing the kit:
You are given the option for an instant download or boxed set (the party pack). If you choose the instant download, you'll need to print and prepare the kit. This is more economical but it will take more of your time, and you'll need ink/paper and a printer. Getting the party pack is a time-saver and looks quite professional (see below).
Here is a chart that describes all of the differences between the instant download and party packs: click here.
The traditional format of murder mystery parties has a face-to-face venue where players mingle about and share information. Players can be directed to perform tasks, such as finding something in the party room, or telling a specific player a bit of gossip, or asking them a question. The traditional format relies upon players being able to gossip, share secrets, discuss clues in private or semi-private conversations.
- The pre-game round is treated the same, with players contacting each other in advance of the party to build their stories and learn about other players. There is a pre-game website at www.YourMysteryParty.com where players can read more information about the players (with more challenging games), view the game trailer, and get costume suggestions. Some games will include bonus materials, such as news articles, additional videos, and more. The pre-game activities will reduce flaking and no-shows to your event, as they will be excited about the game and realize how important their character could likely be to the story.
- Round One in a traditional format is all about mingling, building the storyline, and performing tasks that your character might be assigned. Players take turns speaking to one another in private/semi-private conversations. Albeit, as the group size grows, your players might start to cluster in groups, which is fine. Each player must speak to every character in the game at least once.
- A victim is claimed in round two. Or, with a non-murder format, this is when the crime will happen. After a brief mingling session of new information, the victim returns to the party room with a victim sign on their chest. We have optional victim's items to enhance the victim reveal (click here). After this, the party turns into an active investigation. Again, they mingle, interrogate each other while collecting clues about the homicide or other crime. The round ends with a formal guess of whodunit and an accusation of another player (or themselves if they believe their character did the dirty deed). We keep our murderers in the dark so they can play along.
- The final solution round is when the murderer will confess. This is the first time the murderer is told who they are. The players take turns presenting a solution to the group. Some players might have alternate endings, which is a playful and interactive way to end the story. The host will always have an answer key to have the solution to the mystery and how and where you were to find the clues to guess correctly.
Optimal Group Size:
The optimal group size for an in-person game begins at eight players. Because you're expected to mingle, you'd have four conversations going on simultaneously. Due to a previous demand (prior to having the virtual format), we offer games starting at a minimum of five players, and it works, but the virtual format is the optimal format for a small-group game of six or less. The in-person parties should have a maximum of 50 suspect players, and you can expand to 250 or more. We do have two games with 75 suspect players (Harrison House and Stratford Castle), but those two were developed for large groups and aren't recommended for less than 30 or so players, being optimal at 50+. These two large group games quickly weed out suspects in the investigation, so it doesn't get too chaotic.
VIRTUAL | OPEN FORMAT
Preparing the kit:
The virtually-formatted games are simple. You download a character packet for each player (PDF file) and send each player their character's packet prior to the game. Nothing needs to be printed unless you want to print. However, it's optimal to have a second device during the game if you choose not to print the packet, as you'll be toggling between the packet and the video chat screen. It's do-able but much easier to have a second device. Most will use a PC/laptop for the video chat with a phone or iPad for the packet. Again, printing the packet is convenient but not needed. The host will share various materials with the group, such as game videos that push the story along, &/or maybe a separate challenge that the host will share on the screen.
The bonus about this format is that the solution is separated from the other files, and the host never has to contact any spoilers in the game. The host 100% can play along without fear of any spoilers - other than knowing the narrowed down suspect list with the host character list. That's a necessity to have the flexibility of the game, though. It doesn't give many advantages to the host, though. Don't worry, the optional suspects won't know they were optional.
A virtual game has adjustments and considerations made for the video chat platform's restrictions. Since not all platforms will have break-out rooms where players can mingle about, and not everyone is tech-savvy enough to pull that off, anyway - the games are more of an open group endeavor with fun challenges to conquer and videos to watch ( most games will have video content). Nonetheless, the players will still guess whodunit as individuals.
- As discussed above, the pre-game round is played the same as the traditional format. The players will have expanded bios in their character backs (see below).
- Unlike the traditional format where the crime happens in round two, the murder (or other crime) either has already occurred or will occur as the game begins in the story. Round one begins with players presenting dialogue to the group, followed by an open forum to discuss the growing storylines, the murder, and anything from the players' bios. Thus far, the games do not have an active victim. The first nine murder-themed games published have an outside victim. However, I plan to tackle claiming a victim in a virtual game in 2021. Stay tuned.
- Challenge #1 is in Round One. Depending upon the game's difficulty, it will either be a quick but fun challenge to give the group a clue for the mystery &/or push along the story, or it might take more time, and you'll need to put your heads together. If you get stuck, there will be a hint file/site, or you can view the answer key - no worries. The challenge levels are noted on each game, and as of now, they range from an easier 4/10 to a 7/10. You can sort the games for difficulty on the site.
- Round two's format will mimic round one with a video (most games), followed by more dialogue, bulleted points, and open discussion. You'll have a second challenge (and possibly a quick third, depending upon the game). As I developed the virtual format, I made changes to test them with the beta groups, so that's why my design varies a bit. The newer games (you can sort by game release date) will all have the videos and two (or more) challenges. You will conclude round two with each player accusing who they believe did the crime.
- The solution is presented either by the host reading a script or via a solution video. There will always be a solution key that breaks down the clues and where you should have found them.
Optimal Group Size:
The optimal group size for a virtual game depends on how many you are accustomed to managing on a video chat platform. But as far as how many suspect players there should be - the answer is up to ten. During our beta testing period when I developed the video chat format, all of the feedback of the groups that tested the first expansion packs with suspect players (Murder in 1985, Miles Randolph) were that the expansion packs with additional suspects 'worked,' but they wouldn't host that many suspects again. They pretty much all agreed up to 10 max is ideal.
The comments were that it was a bit too hectic as compared to hosting with fewer suspects and difficult to follow at times with more than ten suspects. Therefore, the newer games will have non-suspect character roles for the expansion packs. These packs will allow your extra players to be characters and feel included, but they are swiftly ruled out as suspects during round one. That way, you can mentally set them aside and focus on the main game suspects. Sometimes, these players might have additional information or hints in their packets to make them feel that they have at least contributed.
I created the spectator files so you can expand the game into as many people as you are comfortable having in a video chat. If you're used to hosting 100+ in a work environment and want to put everyone in the same game - you'll use the spectator files. These are non-character packets with materials just like the other players but just no character information. They'll play along during the game, but they will not present dialogue or add new clues to the game. This just gives the spectators something to follow along with during the game. Their packets will direct them to the pre-game site instead of having pre-game tasks.